Career Check-Up with Dr. Elaine Foster: Part 5

Dr. Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Dean of Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel University is here to give you and your career a quick check-up (no blood draw necessary)! The Career Check-Up with Dr. Elaine Foster outlines advice and insight on going back to school to earn your MSN or DNP degree.

As nurses, we know that patients with good circulation heal faster and live longer. A wide variety of factors contribute to healthy circulation, with the emphasis being on variety: multiple nutrients and minerals are linked to good circulation, as well as mixing up the exercise and work routine. Too much sitting, too much standing – too much of any one thing – is likely to impact physical, emotional and mental health in a negative way. So if you think going back to school to earn your MSN or DNP is going to lock you into “all work, no play” mode for the next two years, please think again.

Most nurses who earn their Master of Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice did so while managing jobs, friends and families. Ignoring everyone who is important to you or simply “going dark” with no explanation can have disastrous results, the least of which is not completing your degree. The fact is, those students who make time for family and friends perform better. Graduate students, like patients, need their support group. Here are a few steps for keeping up with family and friends:

Step one: Cull the list

Let’s be honest. You can relate to, and be related to, all sorts of people. There are those that motivate, inspire and always leave you feeling better than how they found you. That’s your A-List. Then there are those you care about, possibly even love, that nonetheless drain your time and energy. That’s your B-List. This doesn’t mean you eliminate B-Listers completely, but you may want to rethink time and frequency. As with the food and medicine we put into our bodies, the people we allow into our lives can have certain side effects. You may need to adjust the dosage and frequency for particular loved ones while you’re pursuing your degrees.

The point is this: something in your schedule will have to give. You will need to find 10-15 hours a week to devote to classwork and learning. Do you really want to spend your free time with your eccentric Aunt Marge, or sitting through a friend’s first poetry slam? If either one of those options leaves you feeling recharged and inspired, then by all means put them on your schedule. If, on the other hand, the very thought of doing these things causes you to roll your eyes or sigh, then you need to say “maybe next time.”

Step two: Make a date

Once you’ve determined that someone and something are truly important to you, then make a date. That means you open up your calendar where you have already blocked out your work and study obligations, and you can schedule this Very Important Person with confidence. If you took the advice of making a list, you can add VIP birthdays and special events to your calendar so that you can plan ahead. Thinking proactively about the ones you love will make you (and them) feel great. It also helps you avoid the stress of last minute gift buying and the potential of accepting invitations you will later regret. 

Step three: Find new rituals

As you carve out time for your studies, you may have to get creative with how to fit in family and friends. One idea is to combine wants with needs. For example, you need to get regular exercise and you want to spend time with your spouse/friend/relative. Is there a way to combine both? Grocery shopping with a best friend, or even just running errands together can be a great way to catch up. Make meal preparation a family affair instead of doing the work all by yourself.  

Step four: Economize your time

Take a good hard look at how you spend your time. What can you possibly let go of that might free up more time for family and friends? Maybe it’s a new hairstyle or simply taking a break from social media. Instead of cooking every day, make several meals at a time that can simply be reheated for the week ahead. Are you commuting too far or wasting good study time when you could take public transportation? The idea is this: analyze where your time goes and find ways to economize that meet your needs and serve your purpose of higher education.

Going back to school is challenging, but not impossible. And it doesn’t have to be painful. Look for ways to mix things up in healthy ways that keep you circulating with your friends and family. Not only will you graduate with a smile on your face, you soon find yourself with more time and opportunities than you ever expected.

Have you dreamed earning your BSNMSN or DNP? With American Sentinel, you can make that dream a reality.

Stay tuned to The Career Check-Up for more helpful tips on going back to school.